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A Force Of Wills by Gabriella Hunter
Chapter 10: Fear
A/N: Hello! I know, its been three months since the last chapter and I'm very, very sorry and I hope you all can forgive me! Please enjoy this chapter and much love.
There was a dull ringing in her ears.
Astoria could barely hear the flood of her own blood over the terror clasping around her and the distant sounds of a woman ranting and raving seemed to fall distant and useless. She had been too careless…at some point, she had started to hope and it had been smacked out of her hands so quickly that she could have laughed.
It was of course, not funny at all but after a night filled with a few of her secrets being revealed, this seemed to be nothing short of ironic. During her stay here, she had never ran into Helena Zabini, who was usually in her bedroom or out spending Galleons that the family no longer had and so some part of her had never thought that this would happen.
But then again, she had never thought that she would be found standing so close to a pureblood with his voice sliding pleasantly over her and his thumb tenderly stroking underneath her lip— “Now, what would I know about your kisses?” why had he said that? Why? Her knees were still weak, her cheeks still flushed and some foolish part of her was giddy.
Giddy, as if he would ever consider being with the daughter of murderers, thieves…who had no money and no social status like the mysterious girl that had loved him before—before what? Astoria’s eyes widened with terror. No, that wasn’t happening. She would not allow that to happen to her, not to her, who had never, ever desired a pureblood but…his touch still lingered and it almost made her light headed.
Helena Zabini was still ranting and as the dull sound in her ears lessened, Astoria was able to hear some of what she was saying. “Wasn’t it horrible enough to think that you were involved with her at the Malfoy’s party? I almost believed that it was a lie!”
Astoria felt a new bolt of panic in her system. The two of them were the stars of a horrible, terrible rumor that Malfoy had conjured out of his envy and hatred for them both and she could only imagine what others were saying about her. They probably thought that they had indeed done something scandalous in that pantry and she was quite sure that Malfoy’s parents hadn’t said anything about what he had been doing to lead them there.
The blame would go all to them. And now that Helena Zabini knew that she was here, probably making the correct assessment that she had been her for days, her reputation was ruined. Some other side of her glorified in this because there was no way that any pureblood would want to marry her now.
She was a half blood, her family wasn’t rich and she was nowhere near as beautiful as Emily or some of the other horrors that paraded around dances and soirees. At the thought that Blaise would never want her, Astoria’s brief moment of glee evaporated like smoke and she was thrust not only into terror by the current events, but a sort of depression that made her almost sick.
“Mother, I insist that you cease this ridiculous attempt to talk sense into me immediately.” Blaise’s voice rang out and Astoria barely heard him as her heart hammered painfully in her chest, the horror of the previous minutes twisting and turning around her head. All the energy seemed to have left her and she could barely breathe, “Though, the sound of your voice is torture enough.”
Helena Zabini stared at her son with the sort of contempt that would have reduced a weaker mortal to shreds but Blaise merely eyed her with distaste. Astoria stood in the exact same place, his fingers sliding away from her chin and resting lightly on her shoulder, the heat seeping through her clothes and making her almost dizzy, “Don’t you dare talk back to me like that! How dare you, how dare you, you stupid, stupid boy!” she cried, eyes going eerily wide.
Blaise’s fingers tightened a little on Astoria’s shoulder and she could feel the tension rippling over his body and she recoiled just a fraction. “Mother, I’ll say whatever I like to you. If you like spending what little money we have on useless things you’ll stay out of my business,” his tone was so cold that Astoria could imagine him someday as Potions teacher, frightening students to bits.
Helena gasped a little and the bags in her hands fell from her numb fingers and collapsed onto the carpet. Astoria saw rivers of silk and chiffon glittering against the flames of the fire and felt a bitter twist in her stomach, “After everything that you’ve put me through, this is how you behave? This is how you get back at your mother by bringing that…that girl into this house?”
Astoria felt the verbal slap and her temper, which was starting to boil, nearly overflowed and Blaise shot her a warning look to stay silent. She reeled back defiantly, “I’ll have you no ma’am that this was nothing but a sign of your son’s kind heart, not an attempt to ruin you.”
The woman looked at Astoria with open distaste, as if the air suddenly smelt and Blaise heaved a weary sort of sigh. It was hard to breathe, the air was thick with tension and she knew that if she didn’t take care of things now, she would be found, she would be found and her family…. “As if I would believe a nasty little lie from a breed,” Helena Zabini snapped, her cheeks flushing with ugly color.
Blaise’s eyes narrowed and Astoria made a slight motion and he pushed her back, even as she regretted it. Violence wouldn’t solve anything in this situation, though she bitterly wished that it could, “Mother, watch your deplorable language. It’s not at all ladylike.”
“And it’s unseemly for you to still be bringing silly little girls into this home. How long until you get bored with her, Blaise? How long until someone else picks up the pieces?” Helena Zabini sneered and Astoria had a feeling that she would know more about that sort of situation than anyone else. But the truth that he had been bringing girls to his home for years for lurid entertainments caused his lips to tighten, “I want her out of this house. Now,”
“Or you’ll do what?” Blaise asked in a deadly calm voice. Astoria looked up at him in alarm and Helena Zabini flinched a little. “I handle all the accounts, the shopping and somehow, still I’m not good enough for you. Despite your hatred for me, you owe me everything and if I see or hear of you mentioning Ms. Greengrass’s presence in this house to anyone you will regret it.”
Helena paled drastically and the threat even caused Astoria to gasp a little and she watched his mother touch her throat. “Your father wouldn’t approve of you treating me this way.”
“How would you know? He’s been gone for years and I can’t imagine why he would leave.” Blaise replied dryly, his eyes flashing like hellfire. “Though I do have my guesses.” His mother looked affronted by this and Astoria saw his fingers clenching into a tight fist, “I’m near to congratulating him on being so wise.”
“Blaise,” Astoria found herself saying worriedly. He ignored her and she daringly reached up to clasp her fingers over his and he stiffened a little, but didn’t pull away, “…this is my fault, don’t take it out on her.” His mother feasted on the words like a vulture, her eyes gleaming.
Blaise turned his attention away from his mother with a contemptuous look before staring down into her face. Astoria was nearly overdone by such intensity but she held fast to her expression, not wanting to turn into a puddle of nothing at his feet again, “This situation is not your fault. I don’t even see how you could think that.”
Astoria swallowed hard, her fingers clenching over his against her better judgment. His fingers were rougher than she’d thought they’d be… “I ran away from home. My family has been looking for me, I know it and the more I stay here, the worse it’s going to be.”
“It’s only another day.” Blaise said with a raise of his eyebrows, as if he could read her thoughts and severely disapproved of them. “There’s no reason for you to go home. I’m not at all sure what your reason for coming here, aside from Malfoy,” at his name, his mother’s ears pricked and Astoria’s lip curled with disgust, “you don’t even have to explain what he’s done or will do but I can’t let you leave after everything…”
He didn’t say anymore but Astoria knew what he meant. They had only just breached the delicate mystery of friendship not too long ago and though he didn’t and probably wouldn’t say it, he didn’t want her to leave. That was the problem of course because she didn’t want to leave either; she wanted to stay as long as she could… “I’ve put you in too much danger as it is, Blasie. This is just proof that I need to do the right thing for you,”
Blaise’s lips tightened with displeasure and he looked as if he might say something more but he glanced at the form of his mother and scowled. “Mother, would you mind giving us some privacy?” he said it in the same tone he would have asked some vermin, “Would you please die?” and Astoria swallowed hard.
There was a tense moment as his mother appeared rather stubborn but Astoria saw her glancing at her son warily, her temperature rising with unease. After a startlingly short moment, she bent to get her bags and cradled them to her chest as if it could protect her, “I do need to take a rest after this stressful night. I hope that you’ll have this issue taken care of after tomorrow Blaise or else, I’ll have to send for Sabina.”
Blaise looked appalled that she would even sink so low as to contact his sister and Astoria saw a triumphantly nasty look cross her face before she walked off. She ascended the stairs with her head in the air and Astoria viciously wished that she had stayed out tonight instead of ruining how happy she had been here. “The wretch will ruin me.” Her host muttered after a short while, after they hear an upstairs door slam.
The ceiling seemed to shake with it and Astoria wondered if the plaster would fall off but there was nothing but silence after a while. It seemed to swallow them up and when she opened her mouth to say something to Blaise, he was regarding her carefully, “You’re not seriously considering going home, are you?” he asked.
“I have to. If your mother sends letters to her friends, it’ll only be a matter of time until my family finds me.” Astoria found it eerie that they hadn’t put all the clues together and found her here at the Estate yet but the thought made her oddly numb…like she were wishing for something bad to happen and she shook it off. “I don’t want them coming here and hurting you or your mother.”
“I don’t care what happens to my mother.” Blaise replied automatically but she sensed that he did, deep down and he shot her a warning look. Astoria immediately lowered her eyes and hoped that she hadn’t appeared pitying, “and I’m not exactly excited about the idea of you going back home.”
With what she had revealed earlier, Astoria couldn’t blame him but she knew that it was the right thing to do. There was no way that she would want his blood on her hands, “Then what do you expect me to do?” she asked him bitterly. “I’ve already run away. The longer I stay gone, the worse my punishment is going to be.”
The words caused Blaise’s shoulders to stiffen noticeably and she ran her thumb comfortingly over his fingers without thinking. “Punishment…your family is worse than I thought, judging from your expression.” He said with only the slightest hint of worry, “I think it would be best if you stayed here and we’ll be careful when we go into Diagon Alley tomorrow,”
“And our school things?” Astoria asked him suspiciously.
“Taken care of,” Blaise replied immediately. “I should be getting them owled here later tonight.” He said without much emotion in his gaze, his thoughts far off.
Astoria stared up at him in alarm and demanded. “How much money did you spend buying all of my things?” of course she wouldn’t have gotten a Hogwarts letter so he must have just doubled all of their supplies with his own and the enormous cost of that made her eyes sting, “Blaise, you could have asked me to give you the money—I brought some from home.”
Blaise narrowed his eyes on her a little and she saw that she had insulted him gravely by asking him to take her money. Astoria opened her mouth to say something but he shook his head at her, “You are a guest in my home. I won’t let you pay for anything and I won’t take your money,” he said warningly even as the thought teased her mind, thinking that she owed him. “I will say this once,”
“And what do you have to say?” Astoria asked, defiance making her shoulders stiff. She didn’t like the authoritative tone in his voice and she narrowed her eyes on him but he simply took her hand from his shoulder and pressed her palm against his cheek, “….what are you doing?” her voice seemed to have deserted her.
Blaise’s skin…she was touching his skin… “Do not leave. I would hate to have to tie you up somewhere until Hogwarts, Astoria.” The words fell around her easily but she barely heard him as he pressed the faintest of kisses along her wrist, therefore reducing her to ash, “my prickly little cactus should stay where she’s wanted.” She felt her mouth opening to form some sort of reply but she felt as if nothing would come out, save for a disastrous whimper that would only amuse him to no end and she swallowed hard.
“I-I don’t know what you think you’re doing,” Astoria managed to say crisply even as she felt the curve of his smile against her throbbing skin. “But sweet talking me isn’t going to work.” Though the words came out strong, she knew that it was a lie and already she couldn’t quite recall why she had wanted to go home in the first place.
Blaise pressed one more lightly heated kiss against her wrist before releasing her, appearing amused as she skittered away. “My apologies, I couldn’t help myself.” There was a twinkle in his eye and she frowned, not appreciating that he had made a fool out of her, “you’re just so fun to tease. I don’t think I’ve met a cactus quite like you.”
“I am not a cactus!” Astoria snapped and he roared with laughter. Annoyed and still flushing, she turned her back on him and headed towards the stairs, hearing his light footsteps behind her as he followed, the night seeming to have taken on a strange tilt. No matter what he said, she couldn’t stay here and she doubted for just a second that he could stop her from doing what she wanted to do but even as she thought it, she recalled that he was the same person who had chased her down a hallway not too long ago…
When she reached her door, frowning and plotting the best way to escape without his notice, Blaise was by her side, watching her warily. He said nothing but millions of questions, words and denials were between them, not to mention her wrist was still warm from his mouth and she refused to think about her reaction to it. “I’m sorry if my mother upset you.” He said eventually.
“Upset me? You forget that I’ve been getting bullied by Malfoy and his lot for years, nothing anyone else can say can beat that,” Astoria replied easily, though some of his mother’s words did indeed still sting. She glanced up at him and saw him running his eyes on her, as if she were holding onto some tool that would aid her in her need to leave for his benefit, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Blaise watched as she opened the door to her borrowed room and stood politely back as she stepped inside, staring at her. Astoria’s hackles started to rise, just as he smiled, amused that he could annoy her so easily, “I’ll have another word to my mother and in the morning you’ll be free. No need to get your prickly self all in a knot,”
“Don’t you mean panties?” Astoria asked dryly.
“You want to talk about panties?” Blaise asked curiously.
Astoria frowned. “No, I meant what you said about—”
Blaise appeared thoughtful. “I wouldn’t mind discussing your panties Astoria but this is rather sudden. How am I supposed to react to this startling development in our friendship?” she gawped at him and he roared with laughter at her exasperated expression.
“You are so annoying! Go to bed!” Astoria snapped and that only caused him to laugh harder until he startled her by leaning forward and wrinkling his face. He hadn’t done this in a while and she was caught off guard, though she immediately giggled, which pleased him and made her feel like some sort of obedient pet, “go to bed!” she snapped again, pushing him away.
Blaise backed off but not before he said something that unsettled her, his tone wrapping around her like dark silk. “Notice Astoria that you haven’t flinched away from me. There’s no need to hide, and when you’re ready, I’d like you to remember that.” Before Astoria could say a thing, he gave her a bow and walked off down the hallway, looking so proud and out of her reach that it nearly hurt to watch him.
But she watched and some part of her dared to hope…
Astoria waited for hours until she was certain that Blaise and his mother were asleep before preparing to leave. She had hunkered over a bit of parchment and ink, explaining with deepest regret that she had to go home and she had prayed that Blaise would be content with this small piece of her and with a grim set to her mouth, she’d taken off one of her rings.
Though she hadn’t enjoyed the feeling, she had been homsesick and hadn’t taken the ring she’d worn at the Malfoy’s party off since she had come to the Estate but she’d removed one and placed it on the parchment for Blaise. Hopefully he wouldn’t press the issue…hopefully he wouldn’t try to follow her. It had only taken a few moments for her to pack all of her belongings back into her Hogwarts trunk, her fingers threatening to tremble and her lips shaking with the force of her misery.
No part of her wanted to leave. No part of her wanted to leave the Estate that she had become oddly fond of. But there would be no part of her that would have Blaise endangered or killed…or maimed if her family found out about him and what she had done. What they would do to her made her skin chill and sweat break out along her brow but it was too late for her to change her mind and so, with a heavy heart, she traced Blaise’s handkerchief with her thumb.
The slow movement soothed her and she placed it gingerly in her dress pocket, heaved her trunk up and ignored the sound of the bag of Galleons bouncing amid her clothes and books. It would insult him deeply if she left money for him to survive on and though she would worry about it later, the last thing she wanted right now was to make Blaise even more upset than he would be in the morning.
He would discover her gone…Astoria closed her eyes tightly against the hideous threat of tears and walked determinedly towards the door, opened it and peered carefully outside. As usual, there was nothing but the sounds of wood, walls and pipes settling down for the night and she saw no sign of Blaise and silently drew the door closed behind her.
It clicked ominously but made no other noise and she swallowed the knot in her throat and hastily walked down the hallway, her free hand balancing on the rail of the staircase to stop herself from falling. By the time she had made it downstairs and headed towards the sitting room, the back of her neck was tingling in that way when she knew Malfoy was near.
Impossible of course but there it was, that slow, prickling at her nape and her head angled behind her and she gasped, her face paling as a few candles were lit. The area around her exploded in soft red and orange light and she blinked away from it as the shadows and darkness fled under furniture and around corners, “What did I say?” Blaise’s voice asked sharply.
He was nothing but a tall, dark shape before her and the glow of the candles seemed to light his dark eyes with unholy depth. The shape of his wand in one hand startled and terrified her and she felt a bolt of panic, “Blaise—you’re not of age to be using magic at home.” Astoria found herself replying and it was only after the silly words were said did he chuckle.
It was not at all a kind sound. “I think the Ministry of Magic has more important things to worry about than whether or not a pureblood uses his wand outside of Hogwarts,” Blaise said and his tone dripped with condescension.
The Ministry of course was so corrupt that they did have other worries, like hunting after that poor Potter and his two friends. Astoria thought that something needed to be said but her throat was oddly tight and she felt a little faint, “I…” she hesitated and cursed. “What are you doing awake?” she demanded even as her heart hammered with nerves and a bit of elation. She had packed her wand case into her trunk, mostly so she wouldn’t anger her family when she came home but mostly so she wouldn’t hurt Blaise if he dared to stop her, “this isn’t your decision to make.”
“I had a feeling that you would do this and so, I stayed awake just to see if you would.” Blaise answered calmly but she could hear the anger in his voice. “Don’t you trust me when I say that I’ll keep you safe? That you’re taken care of here?”
Astoria sucked in a breath. Trust was something that she had, until tonight, never been able to afford and she regarded him painfully, “That’s…that’s not the issue, Blaise. I don’t want you hurt because of me!”
“Let them try.” Blaise said icily and Astoria wanted to tell him that they would only find his stubbornness amusing before they chopped off his fingers or dumped his entire body in some forgotten forest. Like so many others… “You should have come to me and explained yourself instead of leaving without any explanation,”
“I left you a letter in my room,” Astoria found herself snapping. Every bit of her wanted to run to him in relief but she fought the action and the tears that were welling, why did he have to make this so difficult?
Blaise snorted derisively. “You could have done much better than that, Astoria. My own father didn’t even leave a letter when he abandoned me and I expect better from you, at least one last argument,” he said softly and she felt guilt wrap itself tightly around her entire frame.
Astoria wiped at her eyes with the back of her free hand, hating that she was reduced to this and hating him for making it so hard to leave. “I’m not abandoning you. I’m doing what’s right!” she managed to choke out.
“What’s right or what’s selfish?” Blaise demanded furiously and she flinched. A nasty silence fell around them and she heard the soft creak and groans of the Estate and busied herself with the ugly sensation of tears streaming down her cheeks, “….I know that you think that what you’re doing is helping me, but it’s not.”
Astoria swallowed tightly and somehow managed to see him walking towards her. She immediately backed away, wishing that she could threaten him with her wand, wishing that he didn’t swallow her up completely with just one look, “It is…you have no idea what sort of people my family are. I don’t want you hurt, I don’t want…”
She felt the brush of his thumb along her cheek before he withdrew, muttering an apology and offering her a fresh handkerchief from the depths of his clothing. Shaking her head at him, she took out her own and dabbed at her face, “Apparently, what I want means absolutely nothing.” Blaise said and though he said nothing to the sight of the familiar fabric, she felt her cheeks heating regardless.
“What?” Astoria whispered, staring up at him in confusion.
Blaise looked uncomfortably aware that he had said something without thinking and he glanced away from her. The candles faint light around his eyes reminded her of molten steel and she was instantly transfixed, “I’m not sure that letting you out of my sight is the best of options and I won’t risk you going back to your family and not seeing you again. You have no idea how much I’ll worry.”
A pang settled in her breast and she flushed all the more, cursing him for not being in his room and leaving her to flee in privacy. “…What do you think I can do, Blaise? We only have one day until Hogwarts, one day more that I’m not at home, that I’m not with my family.” One day more of some helpless soul being tortured for information on her whereabouts and she shuddered.
“There’s no reason for you to go directly to your family and if you’re so determined to be out of my home, I suppose going to Diagon Alley and renting a room for a day will have to solve both of our problems.” Blaise said calmly and she was amazed by how quickly his mind had wrapped around this scheme and she could have sworn that she’d heard his brain whirring.
It was ridiculous, dangerous… “I can’t do that! People know me in Diagon Alley—they know my dad. They’re afraid of my family,” Astoria tried to explain. If some wretch recognized her, they would report her immediately to her dad, to Scorpious and she couldn’t imagine something so horrible happening.
They would tear the world apart. “You’ll hide your face and I’ll bribe a few people not to mention that we’re staying at the Leaky Cauldron.” Blaise replied easily and it was only then that she saw that he was going to come with her and she twisted his handkerchief tightly in her fists, outraged and frightened. Relieved, “I have a few Galleons left aside for something like this.”
Astoria wondered if he’d had to bribe to get his way before and something uneasy settled over her but she fought it down. Their eyes locked and her heart hoped that this stupid, foolish plan would work, “I’ll…I’ll only agree if you stay with me the entire time.”
Blaise’s lips turned up in a smile and he dipped his head. “Of course, Astoria,” he whispered and she felt, for just a moment, his eyes lingering before they both turned away, the candles flickering along with the fragile chance that she could stay with him for just a while longer.
Phew! Hope you enjoyed this and I'll be back eventually. Not sure what I'm updating for next....